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Bioengineering

Shunting bacteria on a chip

A device that moves chemical reagents through a network of tiny chambers and channels on a chip has been used to analyse the genomes of individual bacterial cells.

Credit: KASTON LEUNG

Carl Hansen at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and his team developed the microfluidic device, which uses computer-controlled valves to pump reagents and cells as discrete droplets suspended in a stream of oil. By programming the valves, the authors directed single droplets to 95 different 30-nanolitre reaction wells (pictured, with droplet), in which the droplets can be isolated or mixed with others. The authors used their device to sort, culture and sequence the genomes of individual bacterial cells sampled from the human mouth and from marine sediment.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1106752109 (2012)

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Shunting bacteria on a chip. Nature 485, 8 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/485008c

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